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Beit Midrash Shabbat and Holidays The Ninth of Av

THE HOWS and WHYS OF 9 AV

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Eicha! How? How did it happen that Jerusalem, our holy capital, the jewel in Hashem’s crown, was so totally vanquished that it sits alone, like a bitter widow in mourning, bereft of her husband/protector? Eicha – how?

This key word "Eicha" – said by Navi Yirmiyahu in his lament which we read on Tisha B’Av – was first used by Moshe in our Sedra this week. In fact, the pasuk with this word is read in the unique Eicha tune. What is the connection between the two?

Moshe begins his elaborate, final sermon to his people, in the last year of his life, in Parshat Devarim. He starts by reviewing the various places where the nation stopped on its ill-fated, tragically-truncated journey to Israel. Yet wasn’t this already covered in last week’s Sedra of Masei – Journeys? Why does Moshe now repeat the stops?

Chazal suggest that Moshe is subtly rebuking the people. Though this is a new generation that did not commit the sin of the Spies, Moshe wants to be sure that they’ve learned their lesson and will not repeat their elders’ mistakes. By retracing the steps Am Yisrael took in the desert, Moshe is sending the message that sin, and failure, is evolutionary, not revolutionary. It comes incrementally, step by step, little by little. It is a process that begins somewhat innocuously, creeping ever forward, until it ultimately overwhelms us. And if we do not stop the
process somehow, somewhere along the way, it will become so pervasive that we will be powerless to prevent it.

That is precisely "Eicha-how" calamity operates.

This is also Yirmiyahu’s message to us. "Al eyleh ani bochi’a," he laments, "about these I cry." "These" refer to ALL the tragedies we have endured in our nation's history. It begins with the very first critical sin we committed, on the "first" Tisha B’Av. We cried because we were afraid to follow G-d’s directive to inhabit Eretz Yisrael. That unappreciation of just how vital Israel is to our existence would eventually lead to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Bet HaMikdash and all the manifold problems we faced - and still face - including pogroms, Inquisitions, Shoa and the vicious terror campaign being waged against us.

The antidote seems clear: Reverse the "original sin." Come home to Israel, cherish all it stands for, move closer to Hashem and work to rebuild our homeland. In doing so, we will turn the tears of pain into tears of joy. Eicha; that is how it is done.
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